I almost hate to bring up the subject of winter pasture given the dismal growing seasons of 2008 and 2009. We saw limited moisture in the fall, no rain during the winter and late rains in April to finally kick off the spring growing season 30 to 45 days behind schedule. If rainfall were a traded commodity, volatility in the marketplace would be extremely high.
So what are we to do in the second half of 2009, as the time to begin planting winter pasture approaches? Below is a graph showing the trend of September rainfall.
The second graph depicts average spring rainfall (March - May).
From a cyclical standpoint, it appears the odds are in our favor to receive more normal rainfall at planting and during the spring over the next few years.
If early fall grazing is your objective, then have your seed in the ground by Sept. 10. The longer planting is delayed, the less forage for grazing you will have available by Dec. 1. Begin locating your seed earlier than usual this season since the late spring freeze negatively impacted the grain production in much of the Oklahoma-north Texas area. For the Noble Research Institute service area, we still recommend cereal rye for early fall forage production on most soils. Also consider planting oats in combination with rye or wheat, especially if early fall grazing is desired.
On a related note, several oat varieties in Noble Research Institute variety tests have survived recent winters and have had good production in the spring as well. For more information on our forage (cereal grains) and ryegrass variety trials, refer to agricultural publications at our Web site or contact our publications office at 580.224.6480. It is also a good idea to have your soils tested again if you have not had them analyzed within the last couple of years. Some varieties are more pH sensitive than others, and low nutrient levels are never good for winter pasture production. With the current prices of fertilizer, seed and equipment, we need to apply only what fertility is required to meet production goals. If you believe in historic trends, this may be the year for early fall-winter pasture - so begin making plans now.